2Bits: The Perfect Steak
“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook”
A cool, crisp autumn evening settles in. The deep orange sun gently sinks below the horizon. A panorama of fall colors frames the yard. On the front porch, smoke from a grill curls upward, hanging in the air. Locally-raised grass-fed, grass-finished beef rib-eyes cook on the grill. Perfect evening. Perfect steak.
A perfect steak is by design, not chance! Beef cattle genetics, pasture management, aging after the harvest, and cooking skills all play a part in putting a perfect steak on your plate.
Before you buy that side of beef to stock your freezer, ask about these three items:
What breed is it?
Cattle breed and genetics impact steak tenderness and taste. Many cattle breeds have genetic lines that will perform, or “finish” on grass. The farmer you choose to work with should be able to explain to you why they’ve chosen the cattle breed and genetic line they raise for their grass-fed, grass-finished beef.
What do the cattle eat?
This is called pasture management! Forage or grass variety, abundance, and quality vary by region in the United States. All affect the tenderness and taste of the steaks you eat. Ask your beef provider how they manage their cattle grazing. Do they mob or intensive graze? Are their pastures filled with warm and cool season grasses and legumes? What month or months do they finish their beef cattle and why?
How does the meat processor age the harvested beef?
There are two ways to age beef. Dry aging involves letting meat hang in the open inside a climate-controlled cooler, enabling the meat to breathe, lose moisture, and break down through enzymatic and microbial action. Wet aging allows meat to mature through vacuum-sealing and storing inside a cooler or refrigerator—air flow and humidity aren’t necessary for proper wet aging. Wet aging is currently the more widely used method. Dry aging produces a more “nutty or earth-flavored” beef while wet aging, depending upon the beef genetics and pasture management may be less flavorful. Dry aging typically costs more because it takes longer and because there is “shrinkage” in the finished weight. Beef tenderness is similar for dry and wet aging.
Now comes the cook’s (your) responsibility!
Cooking skills or steak preparation: Refrigerator-thaw your steak. Then, remove the wrap around the steak and set the steak(s) on your kitchen counter for 20 minutes, giving them a chance to warm up and expand. Next, grilling time is critical. A rare steak should still feel loose to your touch. When the steak gets tighter, the meat is cooking, typically quickly. Too firm a steak means it is over-cooked. Use a meat thermometer. You’ll want 120 – 125 degrees for a medium-rare steak.
The most important part of cooking is the resting time after the steak has been set off the grill. Let the steak rest for at least 5 minutes so the juice can redistribute throughout the cut. During this resting time, your steak may change from a rare to a medium rare.
Find and connect with beef farmers on 2BuyAg!
They will enjoy telling you their story about why they choose the cattle breed they raise, how they manage their grazing pastures, the aging method their meat processor uses, and their favorite steak grilling tips!
Getting to know one another is the best first step in a farmer-food buyer relationship. 2BuyAg makes relationship building easy! Please join our community and marketplace today. There is no better time than now for farmers and food buyers to get connected! How can we help you? How can we help you set up your 2BuyAg account or profile? Or create a product post?